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Ban Ki-moon kicks off first foreign trip as UN chief with talks with European leaders

Ban Ki-moon kicks off first foreign trip as UN chief with talks with European leaders

Ban Ki-moon (L) and Jose Manuel Barroso brief press
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today began his first overseas trip since becoming the world’s top diplomat, meeting in Brussels with European Union (EU) leaders on global issues ranging from the Balkans and the crises in Sudan's war-torn Darfur region, Somalia and Côte d’Ivoire, to climate change and human rights.

“The European Union and the United Nations have maintained a very strong partnership and I regard the European Union’s contribution as vitally important for the work of the United Nations,” Mr. Ban told reporters after the meeting with European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso.

“We share the same goals and principles: pursuing peace and prosperity and protecting human rights all around the world,” he said, stressing EU financial and political support for UN work around the world, including development, fighting international terrorism and combating pandemic diseases like HIV/AIDS.

“Our positions are on the same page,” he noted after an earlier meeting with EU High Representative for Common Foreign and Security Policy Javier Solana.

After a meeting with North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Secretary-General Jaap De Hoop Scheffer, Mr. Ban said he was “very much assured and encouraged” by NATO’s contribution to peace and security in Afghanistan and Kosovo with close coordination and under the mandate of the UN.

“We discussed with members of the Council, with Secretary-General Scheffer, how to increase overall cooperation at the organisational level,” he added.

Asked about an initiative by Italy, a non-permanent UN Security Council member, to seek a moratorium on the death penalty, the Secretary-General said there was a growing tendency to see some phasing out of the death penalty, “and I encourage that trend.”

Mr. Ban, who succeeded Kofi Annan as UN chief on 1 January, will tomorrow attend a donors’ conference in Paris, which will seek to help Lebanon recover from the ravages of last summer’s war between Israel and Hizbollah, calling it “one of the most important, serious areas to which the international community needs to pay attention and cooperate.” He also stressed the need to help Iraq to restore political, social and economic stability.

From Paris he will go to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) for talks with President Joseph Kabila and other senior government officials as well as with peacekeepers and staff of the UN’s largest mission. He will also address the National Assembly and make a brief visit across the river to Brazzaville to meet with President Sassou Nguesso of the Republic of Congo.

He will then go to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, for the African Union (AU) Summit where he said he would discuss the Darfur crisis with Sudanese President Omar el-Bashir, as well as conferring with African leaders on the conflicts in Chad, Somalia and Côte d'Ivoire.

He will end his Africa tour with a stop in Nairobi, where he will meet with Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki, followed by a trip to the Netherlands, where he will visit the International Court of Justice (ICJ), the International Criminal Court (ICC) and the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in The Hague.

After that, he is to go to Washington for a meeting of the Middle East Quartet – the UN, United States, Russian Federation and European Union – which is seeking a two-State solution to the Middle East conflict, with Israel and Palestine living side by side in peace.